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Microsoft Research Connections Blog

The Microsoft Research Connections blog shares stories of collaborations with computer scientists at academic and scientific institutions to advance technical innovations in computing, as well as related events, scholarships, and fellowships.

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    2014 Microsoft Student Summer Camp in China inspires budding talent

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    Top university students from mainland China and Taiwan gathered in Beijing for the 14th annual Microsoft Student Summer Camp.
    Top university students from mainland China and Taiwan gathered in Beijing for the 14th annual Microsoft Student Summer Camp.

    From August 18 to 21, 2014, some 180 students descended on Microsoft’s Beijing West Campus for the fourteenth Microsoft Student Summer Camp. The students, representing more than 30 top universities in mainland China and Taiwan, were the latest group to benefit from this annual event, which has attracted more than 2,200 students since its inception. The theme of this year’s camp, Urban Dreamer, inspired the students to conceive of ambitious solutions that use the latest Microsoft technologies.

    The camp commenced with a motivational session that focused on the many research possibilities for today’s computer scientists. Feng Zhao, assistant managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, highlighted Microsoft Research’s talent and programs, and then researchers from Microsoft Research Asia introduced their latest projects, many accompanied by compelling demos.

    A student discusses a technical issue with Hong Tan, senior researcher, and Tim Pan, director, Microsoft Research Asia.
    A student discusses a technical issue with Hong Tan, senior researcher, and Tim Pan, director, Microsoft Research Asia.

    Program managers and engineers from Bing, Microsoft Azure, Kinect for Windows, and Windows Online Store were also present, interacting with the students and introducing them to cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence agents XiaoIce and Cortana, as well as Microsoft Azure, Kinect for Windows v2, and Surface Pro 3—tools that can help students who are pursuing technological innovations.

    Students receive hands-on training in using the newest Surface Pro features.
    Students receive hands-on training in using the newest Surface Pro features.

    The students then took part in a series of dialogs, panels, and roundtables, during which they discussed their personal goals and career aspirations. These forums gave students who are members of the Microsoft Technology Club an opportunity to talk with their managers about case studies and projects.

    Research program managers discuss focus topics with the students.
    Research program managers discuss focus topics with the students.

    Then it was time to focus on the camp’s theme: Urban Dreamer. Given a set of urban challenges to solve, the students were divided into 10 groups to brainstorm ideas on urban computing and develop solutions that use Microsoft technology. Team Various Solutions took honors for creating the best solution. Their proposed app uses Windows Phone technology to record electric usage throughout a community, ranking customers according to their average consumption. The app also lets collaborating partners offer discounts to energy conscious households. Thanks to this incentive mechanism, the app can help promote energy conservation.

    The camp culminated with a stage presentation and demo show that allowed selected students to display their work to Microsoft employees, interns, and other students. All that remained after that was the farewell party, complete with a rousing group sing-along. Then we said our good-byes, but it was not a sad occasion, as we are confident that these talented students will benefit from this close interaction with leading researchers and exposure to the latest technologies.

    Organizers and students sing together at the summer camp farewell party.
    Organizers and students sing together at the summer camp farewell party.

    We’re inspired by the students’ enthusiasm to create a better future, evident in such comments as this, from Weizheng Xu of Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, “The camp helped me see the world-changing power of technology and science. I hope one day that I can make outrageous ideas come true, and that together with my fellow dreamers, we can change the world!” That’s our wish, too, for all the students who made this year’s Student Summer Camp the best ever.

    —Guobin Wu, Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Hopping with enthusiasm at the Grace Hopper Celebration

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    Day one of the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: I’m here in Phoenix, Arizona, anxiously awaiting the keynote from Shafi Goldwasser, one of the most honored women in the field of computer science. As I survey the crowd, I can’t help but think about my first Grace Hopper conference. It was 1997, and I was a graduate student. I remember sitting in a large hotel ballroom with hundreds of attendees, blown away by the sheer number of women in computer science. (I was also amused that the hotel had made several men's restrooms available to women attendees—another first in my experience.)

    Making it real at Grace Hopper Converence 2014

    It’s been wonderful to watch the conference and Microsoft's involvement in it grow over the years. At Grace Hopper 2007 in Orlando, Florida, the sponsor tables fit into a hotel foyer, and probably fewer than 20 Microsoft employees attended. This year I am one of 460 Microsoft attendees (women and men), a contingent that includes 12 executives, 50 women in senior positions, and 25 scholarship winners. What’s more, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and president of Harvey Mudd College, Maria Klawe will have a fireside chat on Thursday, and Bonnie Ross, Microsoft general manager of Halo, is an invited technical presenter. Watch the live stream of Satya’s opening session on Thursday, October 9, 8:20–9:45 A.M. PDT.

    Just as the conference has grown and changed over the years, so have my experience and my role at the event. I was a student attendee at my first Grace Hopper conference. Now, as a board member of the Computer Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) for the past three years, I organize the CRA-W Career Mentoring Workshops. I also serve in a variety of other ways, such as judging the Student Poster and Student Research Competition, chairing sessions, and speaking at workshops. This year, in addition to running the CRA-W workshops, I’m excited to participate in a panel on "Visibility Everywhere: Building a Web/Social Media Presence for Women in Computing," organized by Susan Rodger of Duke University, one the leaders in computer science education.

    I also work shifts in the Microsoft booth, which is a great way to meet other women technologists and to show them some cool Microsoft technology. Visitors to our booth can participate in an engaging “creature-maker” activity. Curious? If you’re here, come visit us at booth #515.

    Other notable events that Microsoft is sponsoring include the International Women's Hackathon on Saturday, October 11, when over 100 women will “hack for good” in collaboration with several thousand other women participating virtually around the world. We will also pre-screen the documentary, Big Dream, which shows how computer science careers are exciting, collaborative, fun, and impactful. We hope the conference goers will get excited and host free screenings of Big Dream to help spread this message!

    Surrounded by accomplished professional women and students who seem to have boundless energy and enthusiasm for computer sciences, I have always found the Grace Hopper Celebration to be the perfect time to step away from my day-to-day work and reflect on my own personal and professional goals. I look forward to spending the next several days inspired by the conference, to think hard about my research and career, while having a blast with old and new friends.

    A.J. Brush, Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research

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    Literome: extracting knowledge from biomedical publications

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    As any researcher knows, keeping up with scientific knowledge isn’t easy. This is especially true in the field of medical genetics, where advances in DNA sequencing technology have led to an exponential growth of genomics data. Such data hold the key to identifying disease genes and drug targets, because complex diseases inevitably stem from synergistic perturbations of pathways and other gene networks. Many of these interactions are known, but most of this knowledge resides in academic journals, the number of which has undergone its own exponential growth. It thus has become increasingly difficult for researchers to find relevant knowledge for genomic interpretation and to keep up with new genomics findings. Fortunately, help has arrived with the Literome Project.*

    Literome is an automatic curation system that both extracts genomic knowledge from PubMed (one of the world’s largest repositories of medical and life science journal articles) and makes this knowledge available in the cloud, with a website to facilitate browsing, searching, and reasoning. Currently, Literome focuses on the two types of knowledge most pertinent to genomic medicine: directed genic interactions, such as pathways, and genotype-phenotype associations. Users can search for interacting genes and the nature of the interactions, as well as for diseases and drugs associated with a given gene or single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). Users can also search for indirect connections between two entities; for example, they can look to see if a gene and a disease might be linked by searching for known associations between an interacting gene and a related disease.

    Literome builds on Microsoft Research natural language processing (NLP) technology, extracting information from PubMed abstracts via our Statistical Parsing and Linguistics Analysis Toolkit (SPLAT), and uses the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to store, analyze, and disseminate the information.

    Scientists can use Literome in a number of ways, from exploratory browsing, to corroborating or refuting new discoveries, to programmatically integrating pathways and genotype-phenotype associations for making discoveries from genomics data. Literome is freely available for noncommercial use through an online service, or downloadable web services. It is our hope that Literome will help researchers search genomic medical findings that can lead to new understanding and treatment of genetically mediated diseases.

    Hoifung Poon, Researcher, Microsoft Research

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    *The Literome Project is a joint project from Hoifung Poon, Chris Quirk, Charlie DeZiel, and David Heckerman of Microsoft Research.

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